News: CJ Exclusives

Forestry Leader Sees Enviro Upside

Forestry Association’s Slocum says some CAPAG ideas beneficial

RALEIGH – A member of North Carolina’s Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change said yesterday that recommendations coming from a study group could potentially help his industry, but he is concerned that no cost-benefit analysis is being conducted on the options under consideration.

Robert Slocum, Jr., executive vice president for the North Carolina Forestry Association, said while he does not agree with the current presumptions that global warming will continue and eventually harm the earth and its inhabitants, he believes some ideas coming from the N.C. Climate Action Plan Advisory Group are worthwhile. He spoke at a luncheon (video) Monday at the John Locke Foundation.

“Use the ones that make sense,” he said, “that make economic and environmental sense, regardless of climate change — rather than joining the lemming rush over the cliff in the name of CO2.”

He said among the recommendations that fall into that category are the improvement of forestry management, the preservation of forested lands, and the reforestation of lands. Trees and wood sequester carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is considered to be a chief contributor to global warming. Slocum said U.S. forestland sequesters an estimated 200 million tons of CO2 annually. He said the usage of wood in ways that hold the CO2 long-term, and replanting of trees or new forestry growth, contribute to helping reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere for longer periods.

“So when we use wood,” he said, “it’s a good thing.”

Slocum said many environmental interests, especially those who advocate for land preservation, should emphasize improved forestry management rather than a hands-off, “lock it up”-type land protection plan. Older trees die and release carbon, while wood that is utilized in construction or for other uses ties up the carbon long-term. He said some environmentalists seem to be starting to understand the realistic options.

“I’ve sort of enjoyed this debate and seeing how it’s going to come out,” Slocum said. “I think they have reluctantly come to the understanding that perhaps a managed forest is preferable to a parking lot.”

As for use of alternative fuels, the use of burning wood is probably necessary to realistically attain the goals for utilities to obtain a minimum amount of power from “renewable” sources. “It puts [environmentalists] in a bit of a pickle,” Slocum said. “You have to actually cut the trees.”

Slocum said one problem with the findings of the Climate Action Plan Advisory Group is that no cost-benefit analysis has been conducted for the CO2-reducing options being recommended. Tom Peterson, executive director of the Center for Climate Strategies, which is managing the CAPAG process, admitted as much at a meeting of the Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change last month. CAPAG is a study group created by the N.C. Division of Air Quality, designed to recommend policies largely for its Legislative counterpart to consider enacting into law.

“There’s no acknowledgment that there are going to be significant upfront costs,” Slocum said.

As for the CAPAG, Slocum said the Center for Climate Strategies led the process, but he did not detect that the management group had any preconceived agenda. Slocum said he participated in one of the CAPAG sub-groups that focused on agriculture, forestry and waste.

“I think [CCS] tried to reflect what the working group was talking about,” he said.

Paul Chesser ([email protected]) is associate editor of Carolina Journal.